Changing Stripes – Six Steps 2/12

On a recent, destination shopping trip, I picked up a cute little striped cardigan for 70% off. Deal! I had a passing thought move swiftly through my consciousness about it being kind of like a cute little cardigan already in my closet. But a deal is a deal, right?

As it turns out, I have a total of seven striped tops in my closet, as well as a pair of striped slacks.

Are you observing a pattern here? Stripes?

It’s not that I am only fond of striped patterns. I didn’t even purchase half of those items. (No. I didn’t steal them either.) We could make all kinds of assumptions and read into this pattern. But as Sigmund Freud said, “Sometimes a cigar is really just a cigar.”

The bottom line? There are a lot of stripes in my closet. I don’t suppose they do any harm. But I might have some behavior patterns, or habits, that do. How about you?

Until you open the proverbial closet door you might not even be aware of what patterns will emerge. Of course, family and friends would be happy to tell you, if you care to listen. Think about it. What less-than-promising patterns, or habits, have you fallen into?
• hitting the snooze button
• medicating stress
• procrastinating
• trying to please everyone
• eating out frequently
• watching television every night
• finding fault with self or others

This list could go on and none of it is insurmountable.

Sometimes, the absence of healthy patterns of behavior creates the opportunity for negative ones, like overeating, to fill the space. I’ve worked with many people who turn to food, often as a result of stress or boredom. Having strategies like walking away or taking three deep breaths to cope with stress are examples of healthy behaviors. Spending ten minutes a day doing something that inspires you in some way could be the start of something great. It could also mean the disappearance of boredom.

A lack of food in the fridge often contributes to eating out. So, a healthy pattern to minimize eating out could be shopping for groceries on a regular basis. Are you seeing how this works?

Perhaps you’re fully aware of what needs changing in your life, but you’re not sure where to start. The following steps will help you succeed in replacing bad habits, or patterns, with healthy ones.

1. Create awareness. Look in your closet to see what patterns emerge. What is out of balance or causing you, or those around you, unnecessary grief? What is it costing you?

2. Seek to understand your needs. While vertical stripes generally make one look taller and slimmer, other patterns might not be so flattering.
Why do you hit the snooze button repeatedly each morning?
– Are you tired because you go to bed too late?
– Are you not sleeping well?
– Do you dread the day ahead?
The answers to these questions offer a variety of solutions. Left unexamined, repeated snoozing can lead to feelings of frustration and/or failure and potentially other undesirable patterns: running late every morning and unzipped stripes!
Ask yourself, what need does this pattern fulfill? What triggers it? What do you really need?

3. Imagine the desired behavior. A clear picture of what you want, what you stand to gain as a result and why it’s important to you will motivate you to change. When you notice your trigger, pause and visualize your desired behavior and state.

4. Choose a healthier, replacement habit. For example: instead of hitting the snooze, set your alarm to sound 10 minutes later (ahhh) and commit to acting on the first sound. You will start the day on a good note and build confidence in your ability to follow through on a goal. Or maybe you just need to get to bed earlier.

5. Make a decision and commit to changing, one small step at a time. As I have often said, all great accomplishments are made up of small steps. Just decide and commit to what you want and believe you can achieve. Once you’ve succeeded in creating a new habit, commit to the next step. Success begets success.

6. Don’t judge it. Observe, learn, and grow. Judging and labeling your actions, or lack thereof, do nothing to forward your situation. Just observe the behavior, insert the replacement habit as soon as possible and keep on going.

Changing stripes isn’t always easy, but don’t lock on to the idea that it must be difficult either. I know now that to round out my wardrobe I could wear dots or florals, paisley or plaid. The opportunities are endless.

I wonder if that closing-out sale is still going on. I have this habit of getting really good deals.